‘Tis the season.  I’m aware that people once lived in the South without air conditioning.  Even until very recently.  Now, though, we are completely dependent upon it.

When I go into sci-fi mode and imagine a world where it’s just too expensive to run the A/C six months out of the year, I wonder what would (will?) happen to this state.  A lot of lifestyle changes, no doubt — adopting the siesta habit would not be so difficult.  The planting of trees is easy, too  —  leave the lawn untended, it becomes wooded soon enough.  (As a write, a baby oak is getting started in my pumpkin patch.)

Shade does make a huge difference in temperatures even in a humid climate, and here the sprawl-method of urban development would come back to haunt us.  I’d say it haunts us now, honestly.  Walk through a shady neigbhorhood in the mid-afternoon, it is merely sticky and hot.  ("Very warm" is what I might say, but I tend to understate things.  Think low- to mid-nineties.)   Stand in a parking lot, it can be easily ten degrees hotter.  

Where rising energy prices will hurt most, though, is at home.  It appears to me that there is no longer much effort to design and build homes that stay cool ("cool") in the summer.  Our house does pretty well at the beginning of the season, because it gets little direct summer sun and because it is built on a slab.   But even this one lacks for cross-ventilation you see in a Charleston house or other traditional styles.  Still, we manage to hold off — comfortably — on turning on the A/C for several weeks after our neighbors flip the switch.

Builders would do well to wake up to this.  Where northerners worry each fall about paying a heating bill, around here by July folks are talking about paying the air-conditioning bill.   Unlike other green-building techniques, this one isn’t expensive.  You mostly just need a floor plan that matches the climate.  And I’ve got to think that if you could convince customers your tract house really would require less air-conditioning than the competitor’s, it would have to help business.

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